The preservation and degradation of wood in wetland archaeological and landfill sites

Smith, Robert John

January 2005

Thesis or dissertation

© 2005 Robert John Smith. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This study has investigated the patterns and processes responsible for oak wood degradation in different burial environments by characterizing the biological, chemical and physical nature of sediments from a variety of 'in situ' wetland archaeological and landfill sites. It has used oak wood as the complimentary organic biomarker to help determine the main factors responsible for the unwanted decay of archaeo-organic materials in wetIand archaeological sites and identify the useful deterioration of organic materials in landfill sites.

A laboratory-based simulation (lysimeter study) has been used to act as a representation of the conditions that exist within the burial environments chosen for this research. The main parameters which characterize all burial contexts were artificially manipulated within the lysimeters. These were subsequently measured by using a number of technological applications in order to produce a multi-disciplinary analysis of each environment studied. The interpretation of the data generated from these techniques highlighted patterns within the sediments which were responsible for the degradation of oak wood.

As a result of these findings, this study has not only illustrated the key environmental parameters that are responsible for oak wood degradation over a variety of time scales, i.e. the short- (lysimeter study), medium- (landfill sites) and long-term (wetland archaeological sites), but also determined the most appropriate conditions which are able to preserve wood in wetland archaeological sites and optimize organic waste degradation in landfill sites.

Department of Geography, The University of Hull
Lillie, Malcolm; Frostick, L. E.
Sponsor (Organisation)
University of Hull; English Heritage
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